BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2014 -- Ericsson scored something of a service provider IT (SPIT) coup here Monday, announcing that CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) will deploy its new Service Agility OSS suite to upgrade the carrier's back office and enhance its ability to deliver important business services.
But it's a bittersweet victory for the Swedish giant as it severs some of the operator's ties with Osmine, a legacy Telcordia (now owned by Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC)) process that, while not the imposition it once was, is still an obstacle in the modern telecoms world.
And it could herald the beginning of the end for one of the most despised processes in North American telecoms.
Ericsson unveiled Service Agility in the lead up to MWC, making the rather fanciful claim that it was a complete OSS, BSS and service delivery (API) system in a box, ready to use with little required in the way of customization. The SPIT package comprises technology from a number of different tracks within Ericsson's Support Solutions business unit, including capabilities brought on board with the acquisition of Telcordia and ConceptWave. (See Ericsson Buys More OSS Smarts.)
But the claim looked more solid today when CenturyLink stepped up us as an early user, saying that the various capabilities included in the software package will help it clean up its complex back office -- now a sea of different systems following a number of major acquisitions in recent years -- and make its service creation and delivery processes much more efficient. The third-largest US operator had foreshadowed this move in its joint presentation with Ericsson at the TM Forum's Digital Disruption event last October. (See CenturyLink, Ericsson Leverage Legacy for Agile IT.)
The speaker at that event, CenturyLink VP of network strategy and development James Feger, was in the audience for Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg's early morning press and analyst presentation here in Barcelona Monday. When Vestberg invited him to comment, Feger noted that Ericsson's software was enabling him to develop an OSS stack of IT modules that was helping to unite his IT and network teams.
Once the presentations were over, Feger and his colleague Matt Beal, the soon-to-depart CTO/EVP of product development and corporate strategy at CenturyLink, provided a little bit more backstory in a brief sidelines chat. (See Vodafone Steals CenturyLink's CTO .)
Feger noted that CenturyLink had been working for some time with Ericsson to deliver the capabilities included in Service Agility, which the operator will use to develop and launch a range of enterprise services, such as Global Ethernet, Internet, Virtual Private Network, and Optical Wavelength, when the software goes live towards the end of this year. "We essentially helped Ericsson to develop [Service Agility] and now they are productizing it," noted Feger.
Beal, meanwhile, provided a bit more historical and contractual detail into the mix, noting that CenturyLink was in effect kicking out Osmine, a (much-despised monopoly) process of network element compatibility testing against legacy Telcordia network management platforms that still persist in former RBOC network properties in the US.
"We're helping to get rid of Osmine," noted Beal with a smile.
Osmine is a long-standing process that saw network equipment vendors forced to participate in a slow and costly accreditation process to show that their products could work with the legacy Telcordia software that underpins AT&T, CenturyLink, and Verizon. Indeed, Infinera was required to go through the Osmine process only last year. (See Infinera DTN-X Completes Osmine.)
In its heyday, the process generated significant revenues for Telcordia (believed to be hundreds of millions of dollars per year, including the resulting service contracts that the operators needed to sign up for), but it's a great deal smaller now as the US carriers rely far less on the legacy OSS platforms.
The introduction of the Service Agility stack of software tools will enable CenturyLink to offer a range of enterprise services based on network platforms managed by modules in that new stack, without having to involve the legacy management systems that are the catalyst for Osmine. That means if CenturyLink deploys a new packet/optical platform to enable wavelength services, the supplier will not have to go through Osmine, which costs time and money.
Despite its gradual wain during the past 10 years, anti-Osmine sentiment is still strong within the industry, so news of CenturyLink's breakaway looks certain to raise more than a few wry smiles in the US market and amongst the fixed and core infrastructure vendor community.
And while its impact on Ericsson's balance sheet is likely to be minimal -- if anything the new engagement with CenturyLink should provide an opportunity for follow-on sales, rather than provide concerns about any lost revenues -- the major impact should be one of positive sentiment for a nail in the coffin of Osmine.
— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading